Denmark and Sweden

By Megan Hulshizer

A few weeks ago, I came down with a serious case of cabin fever. Hamburg is notorious for being grey and rainy and cold, and I think it got to me after being sick for a few days and sad it was no longer Christmas vacation. I spontaneously booked a solo trip to Copenhagen, despite Denmark also being rather cold and rainy this time of year. At least I would be cold in a new country.

My lovely friend Tara introduced me to her friend Joe, who is a fellow Okie who lives abroad in Copenhagen. After I arrived and put all my stuff in my hostel (and had a quick welcome-Carlsberg beer to celebrate), I met Joe at the central station so we could walk around and see the sights! I learned so much about life in Copenhagen – did you know they have free university/education for everyone in the EU? Sweet deal! Denmark is known as the happiest country in the world, and I think a distinct lack of student loans is helping them achieve that goal.

Joe and I walked through the city before grabbing burgers and beer for dinner (delicious, and I ate way too much) and then had drinks at The Living Room in Copenhagen’s Old Town. Danish has an amazing word that was short-listed for Word of the Year last year: hygge. Of course there’s no English translation so I’ll do my best to describe what is “hygge” or “hyggelig.” Let’s look at the NPR article specifically about this word!

It’s been called the art of creating a nice atmosphere. It’s been called the pursuit of everyday happiness. But it’s basically building in elements of togetherness, of savoring simple pleasures, of relaxation, of comfort on an everyday basis. – Meik Wiking

Hygge is sort of like our English word “cozy.” Right now, I have a glass of wine, a candle going, my little Christmas fairy lights on, and I am snuggled under a blanket on a chilly winter day. This might be the perfect atmosphere for hygge. Another great atmosphere for hygge? The Living Room in Copenhagen. When we first arrived it looked like there were no seats so we almost went some place else. But then I saw downstairs, full of couches and cozy chairs surrounding a quaint fireplace, and soft candles illuminating the room. What a hyggelig bar on a rainy, freezing Copenhagen night.

The next day I did a free walking tour with Martin from Sandeman’s, which was a fantastic decision! It was a 2 1/2 hour introduction to the city, with a nice little coffee break in the middle so we could stop at a coffee shop and rest our feet for a moment. I learned about Hans Christian Andersen living in Nyhavn, the chain-smoking Queen and the rest of the Danish Royal family, and Absalon the Bad Ass Bishop. Afterward, Martin was giving a second tour, an Alternative Tour of Copenhagen. Why the heck not? So I followed along on my second walking tour of the day. On this tour, I learned about the Meatpacking District, the best bars in the world that happen to be in CPH, how Denmark is dealing with drugs and crime, the sexelance, the Red Light District (my hostel was in this, whoops), the Green Light District, and Freetown Christiania. During my tour, I ended up chatting with a really nice guy named Mohammed who was from Algeria but currently working in Switzerland. Free walking tours are a great way to meet people in countries where you know next to no one, and it was fascinating to learn about the places he’s lived so far in his life – he’s been all over! He was catching a flight at 8:50 so we had a beer in Christiania after our tour and then we parted ways at the subway. I headed back to my hostel and grabbed a delicious dinner there. Not very adventurous of me to eat at the hostel, I know, but my legs were just flat out done after two walking tours in one day! It was an early night for me.

Monday was the day I added country number 45 to my list: Sweden! I had been in the Stockholm airport before, but I don’t think airports should count on lists of “places I’ve been.” The train runs every 20 minutes from Copenhagen to Malmö, and only takes about 30 minutes for the journey. It was fairly cheap, and you just switch at the airport before taking a very cool ride over a bridge and under the water to get to a new country! Malmö is fairly small, and I was able to see most of the “to-see” places in an afternoon. I wish I could have stayed until their micro-brewery opened at 4 pm, but I did like seeing the Turning Torso  building and the cute Lilla Torg square, as well as spending lots of time wandering through the city parks that were starting to see the first hints of flowers – spring will arrive soon, and I’m so ready! The little yellow flowers brightened my day.

Soon enough, it was time to head back to Copenhagen, so again I went on the very awesome bridge/tunnel combo to meet up with Jacob and his lovely wife. Jacob was in a band with my roommate Arne, who suggested we meet up. They are from Germany and are working and studying in Copenhagen. Jacob’s wife is involved with a circus school, where she does amazing acrobatics! So neat. We had some nice Chinese for dinner and a wegbier (road beer) as we walked through the city, chatted, and got to know each other. I loved hearing about their time in Copenhagen. After now meeting three people who have left their home countries for Denmark, I’m starting to see the appeal.

Tuesday was my train back to Hamburg. One of the wild aspects about traveling to Copenhagen from Germany is the fact that you must take a ferry. This sounds fairly standard, until you realize that the entire train you are taking boards the ferry. Choo choo – here comes an entire freaking train onto a boat. I’m not 100% sure how it really works, but we didn’t sink and I made it home. I had one last Carlsberg overlooking the water, as I sat on my ferry pondering gravity, water buoyancy, and the happiest country in the world.

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